Cocoa butter and safflower oil elicit different effects on hepatic gene expression and lipid metabolism in rats

Lipids. 2009 Nov;44(11):1011-27. doi: 10.1007/s11745-009-3352-0. Epub 2009 Oct 6.


The aim of this study was to compare the effects of cocoa butter and safflower oil on hepatic transcript profiles, lipid metabolism and insulin sensitivity in healthy rats. Cocoa butter-based high-fat feeding for 3 days did not affect plasma total triglyceride (TG) levels or TG-rich VLDL particles or hepatic insulin sensitivity, but changes in hepatic gene expression were induced that might lead to increased lipid synthesis, lipotoxicity, inflammation and insulin resistance if maintained. Safflower oil increased hepatic beta-oxidation, was beneficial in terms of circulating TG-rich VLDL particles, but led to reduced hepatic insulin sensitivity. The effects of safflower oil on hepatic gene expression were partly overlapping with those exerted by cocoa butter, but fewer transcripts from anabolic pathways were altered. Increased hepatic cholesterol levels and increased expression of hepatic CYP7A1 and ABCG5 mRNA, important gene products in bile acid production and cholesterol excretion, were specific effects elicited by safflower oil only. Common effects on gene expression included increased levels of p8, DIG-1 IGFBP-1 and FGF21, and reduced levels of SCD-1 and SCD-2. This indicates that a lipid-induced program for hepatic lipid disposal and cell survival was induced by 3 days of high-fat feeding, independent on the lipid source. Based on the results, we speculate that hepatic TG infiltration leads to reduced expression of SCD-1, which might mediate either neutral, beneficial or unfavorable effects on hepatic metabolism upon high-fat feeding, depending on which fatty acids were provided by the diet.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dietary Fats / pharmacology*
  • Gene Expression / drug effects*
  • Lipid Metabolism / drug effects*
  • Liver / drug effects
  • Liver / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Safflower Oil / metabolism
  • Safflower Oil / pharmacology*
  • Triglycerides / metabolism


  • Dietary Fats
  • Triglycerides
  • cocoa butter
  • Safflower Oil